Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Weeds & Folklore in Roehampton

Posted on by royvickery |

On Saturday 24 July 2021 the Roehampton Gardens Society organised two Weeds & Folklore walks at Pleasance Allotments in the London Borough of Wandsworth.  10 people turned up to each walk.  As most of the paths on the site are narrow we were restricted to the main path across this delightful and hidden site, but we were able to find sufficient plants to keep us happily occupied for about 90 minutes each time. Rather unusually sun spurge, Euphorbia helioscopia, seems to be more common than petty spurge, E. peplus, in the allotments, and it was explained that both species could be used to treat warts.  We also discussed several plant-lore favourites, such as stinging nettle Urtica dioica, ivy Hedera helix and ribwort plantain Plantago lanceolata.

At the end of each walk several participants kindly wrote down their memories.

One recalled using rye-grass, Lolium perenne, to predict the future, pulling off spikelets while reciting ‘This year, next year, sometime, never’, in south Wales in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Another recalled popping out the corollas of bindweed, Calystegia sp., saying ‘Granny pops out of her knickers’, in Balham, London, a previously unrecorded version of the widespread children’s pastime.

And a third recalled ‘milk the cow’ – pulling the stem of a greater plantain, Plantago major, leaf so that the veins cause the leaf-blade to crinkle up, in the early 1970s.  This is a late record of a pastime which seems to have been popular in Surrey in the 1940s.

Feedback from the Society was positive:  ‘Thank you so much for taking the time to share your fun and fascinating knowledge of weed folklore with us. These are the kinds of stories that bring nature to life – may we never lose them!’

  • Upcoming Events

  • Recent Plants

  • Archives